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PunditFact: Fact-checking the May 18 Sunday shows

Karl Rove's comments this month about a concussion suffered by Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012 bled over into the Sunday news shows, where pundits debated what Rove said and what Rove meant.

Rove was quoted in the New York Post last week, saying Clinton spent 30 days in the hospital. (She did not.) "And when she reappears, she's wearing glasses that are only for people who have traumatic brain injury?" (They are not.)

Rove himself appeared on Fox News Sunday to defend his comments.

"I'm not questioning her health," he said. "What I'm questioning is whether or not it's a done deal if she's running. And she would not be a human if she did not take this into consideration. She'll be 69 at the time of the 2016 election. If she gets elected and serves two terms, she'll be 77."

Fox political analyst Brit Hume sided with Rove and said the media "overlooked" some telling comments made by former President Bill Clinton last week about his wife.

While Bill Clinton's quip that Republicans thought Hillary Clinton was auditioning for a part on The Walking Dead "was reported everywhere," Hume said, "the part where he said that she underwent what I guess was six months of physical therapy to recover from the concussion, a 'terrible concussion,' was new news. And, of course, it was widely overlooked."

Hume's claim that the media overlooked Bill Clinton's substantive comments rates False.

Fox News aired an interview segment specifically about Bill Clinton's reference to six months and a "terrible concussion," but viewers of other channels got a similar message.

CBS News presented Clinton's words in full.

"She certainly seems to have more stamina now, and there's nothing to it," Clinton said during a question-and-answer session with PBS's Gwen Ifill. "I was sort of dumbfounded. They went to all this trouble to say she had staged what was a terrible concussion that required six months of very serious work to get over, something she never lowballed with the American people, never tried to pretend didn't happen."

NBC News, MSNBC and PBS all presented similar accounts. NBC Nightly News included Clinton's quote during its broadcast, as did PBS's NewsHour. We also found mentions on CNN's Out Front and MSNBC's PoliticsNation and The Ed Show.

Ditto, basically, for major U.S. newspapers and wire services.

The Associated Press led with Bill Clinton's reference to a long recovery: "Former President Bill Clinton said Wednesday his wife, Hillary, took six months to recover from a 2012 concussion, adding she is now 'stronger than I am,' as he dismissed GOP strategist Karl Rove's comments about her health."

The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times all included Clinton's quote, or at least mentioned it. Ditto, too, for major online websites.

On another topic, on ABC's This Week, California Gov. Jerry Brown poked at Republicans who don't believe that man is causing global warming.

Host George Stephanopoulos asked Brown how he would try to manage a response to global warming, given skepticism among Republicans in Washington. Short answer: not easily.

"That's a challenge," Brown said. "It is true that there's virtually no Republican who accepts the science that virtually is unanimous. I mean, there is no scientific question. There's just political denial for various reasons, best known to those people who are in denial."

Brown then pivoted away from Washington to say that "we here in California are on the front lines. We've got to deal with it."

Brown's claim that "virtually no Republican" in Washington accepts climate change science rates Mostly True — mainly because most congressional Republicans avoid making a clear statement on the issue.

We found relatively few Republican members of Congress who say they accept the prevailing scientific conclusion that global warming is both real and man-made. Of the 278 Republicans currently in Congress, we identified eight (about 3 percent) whom you could classify as believing that man is causing climate change.

They are Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.

Are there others? It's possible. Not every member of Congress has taken a clear stance on climate change.

Former Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Pa., told PolitiFact that the number of Republicans like him who stand by climate change science has been shrinking in recent years, due to a more polarized Congress.

"There used to be a lot more of us," said Greenwood, who serves on the board of directors for the National Audubon Society. "A lot of us were very green in our voting records. That has changed. I think it's part of the phenomenon of the polarization of the Congress."

Jon Greenberg and Julie Kliegman contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman is the editor of

PunditFact ruling: Mostly True

The statement

The media "widely overlooked" comments made by former President Bill Clinton that Hillary Rodham Clinton had a terrible concussion that took six months to recover from.

Brit Hume, on Fox News Sunday

The ruling

PunditFact ruling: False

While Bill Clinton's Walking Dead zinger may have gotten more airtime, Hume is wrong to assert that the media ignored Clinton's substantive comments. Clinton's comments were covered in print by the nation's biggest newspapers, in online articles, and on the TV networks and elsewhere. We rate the claim False.

The statement

"Virtually no Republican" in Washington accepts climate change science.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, on ABC's This Week

The ruling

PolitiFact ruling: Mostly True

We found at least eight Republicans in Congress who publicly voiced support for the scientific consensus and many more conservative legislators who deny either a human link to the changing climate, or the fact that the climate is changing altogether. But experts say some GOP members of Congress acknowledge climate change science behind closed doors but avoid the talk in public for political reasons. We rate Brown's claim Mostly True.

PunditFact: Fact-checking the May 18 Sunday shows 05/18/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 18, 2014 8:55pm]
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